I am writing about a magical-realistic city in Latin America that is very dusty, See: A brief introduction for visitors

How do modern humans adapt their lives to urban environments with frequent dust storms?

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    $\begingroup$ Is it constant dust, or very frequent dust storms? Are there ever dust free days? $\endgroup$
    – Ash
    Oct 18, 2020 at 14:13
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    $\begingroup$ Hello Peqi. Welcome to Worldbuilding. Please not that Stack Exchange's user model is one-specific-question/one-best-answer. One of our vote-to-close reasons (the one I selected) is specifically because more than one question is being asked. Not also that most of your questions are far too broad to be anything other than opinion-based (another VTC reason). Indeed, you're asking us to write most of your book. It is better to ask multiple specific questions (usually one-at-a-time) than to try to ask everything at once because Stack Exchange is not a discussion forum. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Oct 18, 2020 at 16:59
  • $\begingroup$ I see. In my defence, I am asking the community for ideas or insights on the setting of the story. A finished story depends on plot, characters, voice and framing - as well as setting.My multipart question is actually one question - I thought i would give community members some prompts to help stimulate ideas. $\endgroup$
    – Peqi
    Oct 18, 2020 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ We don't produce ideas. We solve well defined problems. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Oct 18, 2020 at 19:19
  • $\begingroup$ There's plenty of real life examples of cities that endure dust storms: youtube.com/watch?v=Esz6ne9x9yM $\endgroup$ Oct 19, 2020 at 1:26

2 Answers 2


Look at the impact of bushfire smoke on cities

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This is Sydney in December 2019 as it was surrounded by bushfires. Everything has a fine layer of Ash on it. Everything is dirty and messy. Even the beaches were covered in black:
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So what changed in Australian cities during this smoking that is relevant to your question?

  • You couldn't use large evaporative air conditioners, such as those in older commercial or industrial buildings, and ceiling mounted residential cooling systems. The first few days with big smoke were mid 40s, and if you turned the air con on, you'd fill your place with dust. Evaporative air con requires an airflow.
  • The dust did eventually cool the city down. One city had a 10 degree C temperature drop as a result of being covered by smoke.
  • Laundry couldn't be done. You had to use a dryer, or hang up clothes indoors.
  • We couldn't clean anything for weeks, as water restrictions came in to force (for firefighting).
  • The ash clouds has their own lightning strikes - which started more fires.
  • Everyone stocked up on masks. (This was helpful for Covid19).
  • Power use skyrocketed. 1 in 3 buildings in Australia have solar panels on them. These panels had basically no output.
  • Driving was dangerous. People missed work because driving was too scary.
  • There was a class divide:
    • Rich people hide in their air conned, high efficiency houses. Lots of food delivery services.
    • Poor people flocked to large shopping centres. Which are air conned and remained dust-free.
  • Airports were running at like 10% capacity - planes had to go around.
  • 417 people died from smoke inhalation.

If bushfires were this bad every year

(Actually "when" not "if" - our politicians don't really believe in climate change)

  • "Air locks" will be added to all buildings. All big public buildings will have rotating doors. Houses will have 2 doors with a little small hallway in between.
  • Leaving your home will be rarer. Look at Covid - people will work from home, school from home, shopping will be rarer and you'll buy more at a time.
  • Masks will be common, once again, like covid. Everyone will cover their faces when outside. Fashion will evolve to have masks.
  • Nothing will look pretty. There will be no artistic design. No nice paint jobs. Basically nothing will be painted (as dust sticks to paint).
  • Currently some large public buildings have fans at the entrance blowing air down, which helps keep dust and pollen down. These will be on every public doorway into a large building.
  • Many large buildings may also be positively pressurised. This is currently used in cleanrooms and some high tech manufacturing facilities, however it will be used in normal offices and shops in your society.
  • $\begingroup$ This is very insightful. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Peqi
    Oct 18, 2020 at 19:27

Is your dust a metaphor?

Sometimes writers want to comment on the real world by way of their fiction. It can be painful and provocative to use real names of things, like corruption or sexism or inequity. These weighty subjects come with colossal mountains of baggage, which turn off some readers entirely and provoke others to rage from he standpoint of their present ideas and beliefs.

One can use fiction and within the fiction, metaphor, to make sly commentary on such important but difficult sociocultural matters, possibly informing and enlightening readers. The standpoint of a fictional world is not so provocative. Have your people interact with the dust in a way that echos the commentary you wish to make.

I could imagine a dusty city in a world like this where all the miserable people do nothing but suffer and rub their eyes. Perhaps one individual sets up bushes around his house that block the wind, and the dust does not come in to his house. Angered, at the end of the story his neighbors destroy the bushes.

Or a scenario where there is frenzied and expensive activity to abute and mitigate the effect of the dust in town, sweeping and vacuuming and filtering. The dust is being produced from agricultural activities by people who do not live in town.

I could imagine a city of haves and have nots, where the haves are able to ascend to high towers and forget about the dust and the have nots live coated with it.

I could imagine a city where an amazing technological achievement clears the dust forever only to learn that their sun is lethally bright, and their world had been protected from it by the dust.


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